Even more movies you shouldn’t really be streaming, ever

It turns out there are a lot of bad movies on Netflix and Amazon begging for someone, anyone to click on them. Given their awfulness, though, it’s sometimes hard to find a terrible movie to stream.

Amazon and Netflix’s algorithms mean that they (quite rightly) try and serve you with passable movies that you may like, based on the other movies you have watched. And, for the most part, you will have a modicum of taste. 

This means titles such as Die Hard Dracula won’t immediately pop up in your recommendations. Nope, if you really want to pollute your eyeballs you really have to dig into the library and get your hands dirty in the process.

Or, you could just read Not On My Watch – here we showcase the frankly terrible movies that are available to stream right now. That’s right – while all you lapped up GLOW, bathed in the beauty of Okja and the fantastic first episode of the second season of Preacher, I sat and watched a movie about Downing Street being placed under siege by a mouthy Londoner, a modern day Dracula with a flying coffin, a 300 rip-off that was shot for less money than a cup of coffee (presumably) and a turgid tale about a sex robot.

And with that, these are the movies st(r)eaming on a service near you right now. 

Endure.

Nightscape: Dark Reign of Thanatos

  • Steaming now on Amazon Prime

The Premise: The god Zelos is bored. So, he decides to let his kids rule his kingdom. Bad move. Aevum and Thanatos are kind of dicks and Thanatos becomes evil threatening to destroy the world. That’s just the prologue, the rest of the movie is set in the present day and focuses on a comic-book geek called Curian that has to do battle, I think, with a modern day incantation of Thanatos because reasons.

This is a student movie that managed to get a distribution deal. I’ve no idea why but that’s the situation we are in and it means that anyone with Amazon Prime can watch this movie, even though I utterly advise against it. 

It begins with a hint of promise that fades faster than the colour of your favourite shirt when a loved one washes it on a high heat by accident.  It’s low budget, sure, but once the opening crawl is out of the way – it’s about a minute of an old man muttering stuff about gods, legends and destiny – there’s some ‘okay’ fighting with a slow-mo 300 sheen, minus the abs and baby lotion. But then this ends and we are transported to a strange parallel present day world that is inhabited by bad actors who clearly look uncomfortable in front of the camera. And it’s like that for about 80 long minutes. 

Through the dark times watching this, there was a glimmer of hope. Like when a man appears in a hood and whispers stuff to another man. There’s also a bit in a forest, where someone finds out their destiny, then some people fight with staffs and another old man appears only to disappear. He may have been Zelos, but I haven’t really got a clue. 

Oh, and at one point the hooded man says to Curian the classic line: “Your death was due five timelines ago.” 

I wish I died five timelines ago.

The film feels like someone shooting a school play of Lord Of The Rings, then accidentally recording over most of it with an am-dram version of The Office.

Best watched when: sitting at a bus stop dressed as a wizard and you’ve missed the last bus to the wizard convention and have nothing else to do as your wizard stick isn’t real and can’t help you in this particular non-wizarding situation. 

Die Hard Dracula

  • Steaming now on Amazon Prime

I love Die Hard and I love Dracula. So there was a good reason why I choose to watch this film. Unfortunately it is so bad, I feel I will never be able to love again.

It’s a spin on the Dracula myth that I’ve never seen before, where Dracula lives in the modern day and decides to terrorise an all-American teenager who has lost his girlfriend in an accident. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, this is a terrible, terrible movie. But, there is one scene that had me in tears. It’s when Dracula, annoyed with all the praying he’s been listening to for the last 300 years while he’s been in a church in his coffin, decides to leave for somewhere new. This is shown by the coffin levitating (you can see the strings) and then we get a first-person view of the coffin flying through the sky to the tune of Flight of the Valkyries. It’s awful, so brilliantly awful. 

The rest of the movie sees Dracula take all sorts of guises, mainly that of a terrible actor who pronounces his double us as vs, in bad makeup pretending that the sun hurts his eyes.

Best watched when: you are having every inch of blood drained from your body and you’re still conscious but barely so that everything you see blurs into pretty colours as your vision slowly but surely gives up. 

Hot Bot

  • Steaming now on Netflix

The premise: Two teenagers find themselves in a (literal and figurative) car crash with what just so happens to be a top-of-the-range, bells-and-whistles sex robot. The problem is, she/it has a mind of her own.

I’ll give this much credit to the makers of Hot Bot – they managed to find two words that rhyme for the title of their movie. Good work, all. Good work. It’s just a shame that they didn’t put as much effort into making the script work, filming the movie and finding actors that can, well, you know, act. 

Hot Bot isn’t bad good. It’s bad bad. There’s a bit in the movie where they are in a car and run over a sex ‘bot not knowing that it is a real person. 

The following conversation takes place: 

Idiot stoner 1: “You ran over a girl and you knocked off all of her clothes.”

Idiot stoner 2: “Did I knock her socks off?”

*slow hand clap*

What you’ve done there, makers of Hot Bot, is take the idea of knocking over a person and making a snarky sex joke, instead of caring about the fact that YOU POSSIBLY KILLED SOMEONE, YOU ABSOLUTE IDIOTS. 

What ensues is a deeply unfunny sex comedy that lacks both sex and comedy. Please, for the love of everything, just source Weird Science and watch that instead.

Best watched when: you have a hot bot(ty), so you spend so much time on the toilet you miss the entire film.

He Who Dares: Downing Street Siege

  • Steaming now on Netflix

The premise: An ex-SAS soldier who left under a dark cloud is summoned to return when the Prime Minister is taken hostage in Downing Street by a mouthy Londoner who loves to blow the bloody doors off. 

“He who dares, Rodders. He who dares.” Sorry, I went all Only Fools And Horses then for some reason. 

Compared to the rest of the movies on this list, He Who Dares: Downing Street Siege looks like a Picasso. It seems to have been shot by a real team of filmmakers. But this sheen soon wears off as the film progresses. The film is a mess, stuffed with people who think shouting loudly is acting, a screenplay that’s been written on the fly (or by a fly) and camera person who has fallen in love with (or asleep on) the zoom button. 

There’s a fantastic moment when head bad guy Holt (played by Simon Phillips who just so happens to have written the movie as well) meets the Prime Minister for the first time and to show off how evil he is, he says the following:

“If this is the best the country has to offer, then bring back Maggie. I didn’t respect her but at least she commanded the room. 

“I don’t respect you. You left your back door unlocked.”

You left your back door unlocked. What is this a metaphor for, you ask? It is a symbol of the corruption of power, or that even the most powerful people in the world have some sort of vulnerability?”

Nope, the Prime Minister actually left the back door open. 

Best watched when: you hanker for a Steven Seagal movie but need something that lacks the nuance, brains and acting prowess of said movie. 

Marc Chacksfield is a former film journalist (and TechRadar’s global managing editor) who is already regretting agreeing to watch terrible movies for the sake of his column Not On My Watch.

  • You deserve better: check out out the best Netflix movies and best Amazon Prime movies around
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A tale of two internets: how Content Delivery Networks are guzzling up the web

The internet: singular. A global computer network providing a variety of information and communication facilities, consisting of interconnected networks using standardised communication protocols.

There’s a problem with that definition, namely that there are increasingly two internets; one for the First World, and one for everybody else. Why? It’s because of the spread of content delivery networks (CDNs), which are fast guzzling up the worldwide web.

Cisco reports that the role of CDNs in data delivery is rapidly increasing. CDNs will carry 71% of total internet traffic by 2021, up from 52% in 2016, says the firm’s Zettabyte Era report. But why is this happening? And does it matter?

CDNs from the likes of Netflix will carry 71% of the internet by 2021 (Image Credit: Netflix)

What is a CDN?

A CDN is a geographically distributed network of distributed servers and data centres that serve a particular user group. That means streaming video providers like Netflix and Google’s YouTube, social media platforms like Facebook, WeChat and Instagram, it’s iTunes, it’s Spotify, and Amazon.

These are so-called ‘walled gardens’, and they’re designed to ensure high performance and availability of content whenever and wherever it’s needed. CDNs are efficient, they’re customisable, and they’re hugely popular with users. 

CDNs so far have generally been built, managed and provided as a service by two main companies – Akamai and Limelight – which handle the hubs for firms like Airbnb, IKEA, MTV and Reuters, the BBC, DailyMotion, DirectTV, Roku and Sky. Other players include StackPath, Fastly and Amazon CloudFront, with the latter rising swiftly.

However, this market is changing fast. Akamai used to handle Apple, Facebook, Bing and Twitter, which gives away a clue to the big trend in CDNs – they’ve gone private, with the likes of Facebook and Netflix building their own networks. They have a big future; Cisco reports that 68% of CDN traffic will be carried by private CDNs by 2021. 

Walled garden-style experiences are becoming walled gardens proper.

Dropbox has built its own proprietary CDN

The swap to private CDNs

As we’ve just mentioned, private CDNs are those built and operated by content providers – such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Netflix and Pandora – for their own content, and only their content. Why? A massive expansion is needed, and most of the big players now need a custom solution. 

Internet speeds and bandwidth are very important if you’re someone like Netflix wanting to stream a lot of video, but such infrastructure is largely out of the provider’s control. “Although network performance is usually attributed to the speeds and latencies offered by the service provider, the delivery algorithms used by CDNs have an equal if not more significant bearing on video quality,” reads Cisco’s report.

These private CDNs use proprietary algorithms to route requests, but in the case of Netflix, the bitrate of the video also dynamically changes to suit the bandwidth. Users don’t have to suffer buffering video, which Netflix can only control because it owns and operates the CDN. Private, controllable and easy-to-expand CDNs are therefore much better for users, and now seen as utterly essential given the inexorable rise of one thing: streaming video. 

Facebook and YouTube

The two biggest private CDNs out there – by far – are Facebook and YouTube. This week Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that his social media platform has passed two billion active users, having reached a billion in October 2012. That’s an incredible number. Next comes YouTube (1.5 billion), WhatsApp and Messenger (both 1.2 billion – and both owned by Facebook), WeChat (889 million) and the fast-growing Instagram (700 million).

Video will represent 80% of all internet traffic by 2021

Cisco predicts that by 2021, video will represent 80% of all internet traffic (it’s presently 67%) and forecasts vast increases in live streaming video, AR, and VR across online entertainment patterns. Netflix may be a smaller CDN in terms of daily users – at ‘just’ 100 million worldwide – but it does very big numbers; about 100 million hours of video are streamed per day via Netflix, around half in the US and half for the rest of the world (though it’s not available in China).

CDNs generally use their own purpose-built data centres (Image Credit: Facebook)

The CDN gap

Private CDNs may be seen as essential by some companies, but they are causing a chasm in the worldwide web. They may be predicted to carry 71% of total internet traffic by 2021, but the regional divides are clear. Cisco reports that while private CDNs will carry the majority of internet traffic in North America, Western Europe and Asia Pacific, that figure drops to a mere quarter in Latin America and Eastern Europe. In Africa and the Middle East, it’s barely 10%; the internet is very soon going to look vastly different depending on where you live.

The traffic gap

Meanwhile, Akamai reports that the global average internet connection speed increased by 15% in the past year. That last stat is key because the CDN’s success – and especially that of Netflix – is built on speed. CDN provider Akamai’s latest State of the Internet report reveals that the global average connection speed is 7.2Mbps, with Singapore having the fastest fixed broadband speeds (184.5Mbps) and the UK having the fastest average mobile speeds (26Mbps).

New media like VR will only intensify the move to CDNs

An internet of… everything

If the private CDN is creating a ‘second’ internet, a third now appears inevitable. Cisco predicts that the Internet of Things (IoT) will represent half of all internet connections by 2021. That’s so big that some think it deserves a more suitable name.

“This new research from Cisco confirms that we’re moving from the Internet of Things, to an Internet of Everything,” says Lee Nolan, Solutions Director for Insight UK. “With IoT connections set to double by 2021, we’re witnessing a technology revolution that is set to rival the birth of the PC, even the mobile.” 

Cisco predicts that healthcare will be the fastest-growing industry in this space, growing 30% annually. “The IoT can be used to track patients and equipment,” says Nolan of connected health monitors and medicine dispensers. “The focus should be on investing in infrastructure that can cope with vast pools of data, whether it be cloud or network capacity.”

A tale of two internets?

Do we have two worldwide webs? As infrastructure and bandwidth increase, video is eating the internet, and the big internet companies are creating private CDNs to reshape it in response. But as the trend to video and rich media intensifies, growing to constitute over 80% of all traffic, what is today a phenomenon in only the West and Asia Pacific will surely spread to create a global internet dominated by CDNs. And now comes the IoT…

  • A closer look at the Internet of Things 2.0 – and why it’s inevitable

LG’s mini G6 is coming, and will be called the LG Q6

At the start of May we got word that LG might be working on a mini version of its flagship LG G6 phone – one that would reduce the screen size from 5.7 inches to 5.4 inches, and keep the 18:9 aspect ratio – but back then we weren’t sure whether the project was still alive or had been abandoned by LG.

Enter one of our favorite (and most reliable) phone tipsters, Evan Blass, who this weekend tweeted confirmation that the phone is real. It’s apparently now looking for regulatory approval and will be called the LG Q6.

Blass also reveals that the phone will be downgraded to a single 13MP camera and will come with 3GB of RAM on board. The screen aspect ratio, meanwhile, will get a slight tweak to 18.5:9 – almost the same as the LG G6, but exactly the same as the ratio Samsung used in the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus this year.

Unfortunately we don’t get any mention of any other specs, so we’re left to guess – presumably the phone is going to come with the same Snapdragon 821 processor as its immediate predecessor, even if the rest of the specs (and price) get chopped down.

Only one camera lens means none of the wide-angle trickery of the full LG G6 but we’re thinking that most people can probably live without that in return for saving a bit of cash. We’re hoping that the bezels are just as squeezed on the new handset, but we’ll have to wait on see on that and many other details.

LG has released mini versions of its phones in the past and obviously feels it’s one way to pick up some traction in a market dominated by Samsung and Apple in terms of sales – as well as appealing to those with smaller hands, obviously. As and when we hear anything else about the LG Q6, we’ll let you know. 

  • Why the LG G6 isn’t one of the world’s best phones… yet

Samsung reportedly plans to build the world’s largest OLED factory

OLED displays are the next big thing for smartphones, and Samsung is reportedly readying a massive plant to meet demand.

The company behind the Samsung Galaxy S8 plans to build a huge factory devoted to producing OLED screens, according to ETNews.

Though the final investment plans won’t be confirmed until after a board of directors meeting next month, the proposed plant would be the largest OLED facility in the world, cementing Samsung as the leading supplier of the high-end displays.

As other companies like LG are reportedly investing heavily in OLED panels, a race is shaping up to see who emerges as the top source. Coincidentally, this is all happening as reports point to Apple needing ample OLED screens for the iPhone 8.

iPhone 8 and beyond?

Samsung has long been rumored as the front runner to be Apple’s OLED display supplier, and it would seem the expanded production plans are a sign Samsung anticipates filling some major orders in the coming years.

And it’s not just the iPhone 8 – Apple has already reportedly inked a deal with Samsung to supply OLED for all versions of the 2018 iPhone. Apple is rumored to continue using OLED into 2019.

While we’re connecting the dots between Samsung’s new factory and the iPhone 8, we hope this news means more handsets – plus tablets, TVs and other devices – will gain easier access to super-sharp OLED technology. 

  • You can try iOS 11 public beta right now

iPhone 1 vs iPhone 7 Plus: this is how far we’ve come in 10 years

The original iPhone is celebrating its 10th birthday, and what better way is there to mark this anniversary than to force it to hang out with its taller, more popular and overall better looking kid?

We decided to do an in-depth comparison of the iPhone 1 vs the iPhone 7 Plus running iOS 11, putting the two smartphones side-by-side. What’s changed? In two words: a lot.

As we wait for the iPhone 8 (or whatever Apple will end up calling its next smartphone), let’s see how far we’ve come in one decade.

We have to start here because the camera has seen the biggest advancements of any iPhone feature. It’s replaced buying a DSLR or compact camera for many people and paved the way for billion-dollar ideas like Instagram and Snapchat.

The original iPhone had a single 2MP camera on back, and that was pretty significant back in 2007. It was superior to the standard 1.3MP camera on many flip phones and its touchscreen allowed you to better frame and review shots.

What’s crazy? iPhone 1 doesn’t have a front-facing camera, doesn’t take video and doesn’t let you can’t tap to focus. It just takes low-resolution photos during the day and, at night, all you get is either dark nothingness or a blurry, bright blown-out mess. But this was still a big deal ten years ago.

Now? Now we’re spoiled with three cameras on the iPhone 7 Plus, including an impressive dual-camera setup on back. Apple has also multiplied the level of detail and color correction in ten years and added a bokeh-rich Portrait Mode, Live Photos, and that all-important FaceTime camera. Yes, selfies (and selfie tricks) weren’t a thing when the iPhone 1 launched.

The iPhone 1 had a large, revolutionary 3.5-inch touchscreen, eschewing the physical keyboard popularized by BlackBerry in favor of an on-screen keyboard. That was controversial. Those who weren’t wowed by this technology on June 29, 2007 seemed to be predicting an on-screen keyboard would never take off.

What’s crazy? The iPhone 1 is so small that the entire phone fits within the perimeter of iPhone 7 Plus screen. That 3.5-inch screen has a resolution of 320×480 pixels, and it packs in only 165 pixels per pinch. The revolution came, but it wasn’t even Retina HD just yet.

Now? iPhone 7 Plus is massive by comparison thanks to a 5.5-inch, 3D-touch-touting display. It has a resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels and about 401 pixels per inch and a significantly wider color gamut. It really contrasts with what looks like the 8-bit of smartphone displays.

The iPhone 1 had a length and width of  115 x 61mm (4.53 x 2.40), big by 2007’s standards. It also had a thick girth of 11.6mm (0.46 in) and was anything but a unibody phone. You, could, however, hold and operate it with one hand and fit in in a skinny jeans pocket.

What’s crazy? It’s very slippery and fairly delicate – admittedly, we broke during the making of this six-month-long feature. The iPhone1 is an antique and should be treated as such. Our mistake.

Now? iPhone 7 Plus is obviously much bigger at 158.2 x 77.9mm (6.23 x 3.07 in), but the depth is noticeably slimmer: 7.3 mm (0.29 in). It may not fit in your pocket – and sadly our jeans have gotten skinnier in ten years. Luckily, the new iPhone is more durable, debuting water-resistant for the first time in 2016.

The iPhone 1 came with pre-installed apps, but Apple didn’t launch its App Store until the iPhone 3G released a year next year. That meant you were stuck with 17 apps and the settings menu for 18 tiles total on the single homepage. 

What’s crazy? There’s no Control Center, notifications shade, or second home screen pane (why would you need it?). You certainly can’t delete apps, but do you remember a time before app folders? Those didn’t launch until iOS 4.

Now? 500 apps launched on the iPhone a year later thanks to the advent of the App Store via a software upgrade called iPhone OS 2 (the predecessor to iOS). Now, as of iOS 11, we have more 2.2 million apps and Apple has had 130 billion downloads. At WWDC 2017, Apple announced that the App Store has generated $70 billion in revenue for developers.

The iPhone 1 could make phone calls, send text message and connect to Wi-Fi so you could email people and surf the web. All of this was considered a feature suite in 2017. Before, phones used to break up the mobile web into little chunks with scrollable vertical and horizontal bars. Safari gave us our first taste of the real mobile web. Wallpapers were customizable on the lockscreen, where Apple’s ‘Slide to unlock’ mechanic reduced butt dials dramatically.

What’s crazy? Notice anything? There’s no Bluetooth, nevermind Night Shift, Do Not Disturb and low-power modes, all considered essential in 2017. Also, you weren’t able to change the wallpaper on the device itself. Only the lockscreen. What a world we lived in.

Now? Jumping from an iPhone 1 to an iPhone 7 Plus with iOS 11 seems so much more complicated. But over the course of ten years, we’ve grown with all of the system changes and wouldn’t be able to function without swiping up from the bottom to access Control Center. The only thing we miss is the satisfaction of ‘Slide to unlock.’

Apple didn’t need to tout the iPhone specs for the first two years because the iPhone 1 and iPhone 3G had limited processing power and, frankly, didn’t need to high-end performance for the fledgling App Store the came in year two. But the iPhone 1 was still a capable little machine, with a 412MB processor and 128MB of RAM. 

What’s crazy? Apple’s entry-level iPhone 1 had just 4GB internal storage – and you though 16GB of bad. Of course, we didn’t have much to use up that space in 2007. The App Store was still a year off and the low-resolution photos didn’t take up a lot of room. But, just in case, Apple also had 8GB and 16GB models.

Now? iPhone 7 Plus claims speed records thanks to its Apple A10 Fusion chipset that has 2.34GHz quad-core processor and 3GB of RAM. It’s thousands of times faster than the computer within the Apollo spaceship – the one that landed on the moon – and the technology now fits in your pocket.

The iPhone 1 debuted Apple’s iconic home button and what was unique about this is that there were no physical buttons on the front of the device. This was foreign territory for avid BlackBerry fans. It pressed in like a normal button and lit up the screen when the phone was asleep or returned you to the home menu when you were in an app.

What’s crazy: Holding down the home button does… absolutely nothing. Siri didn’t launch until the iPhone 4S came out. Double pressing it, however, did lead to a shortcut: back to the home screen, to the search menu, Phone Favorites, the Camera, or iPod app.

Now? The iPhone 5S changed the home button when the Touch ID fingerprint sensor made it flat instead of concave (and got rid of the classic square icon). The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus did this again by eliminated the actual button that you press, favoring a touchpad with a haptic vibration that simulates pressing it in. 

Rumor has it that the iPhone 8 won’t have any home button or home pad due to an all-screen. Apple may put the button on the screen and fingerprint sensor behind the glass, if it was able to figure out that design.

The iPhone 1 and iPhone 7 Plus are very different when it comes to the battery and charging methods. The iPhone 1 has a smaller 1,400mAh battery size, but bigger 30-pin dock charger, while the iPhone 7 Plus provides a hefty 2,900mAh battery and uses the much slimmer Lightning Cable.

What’s crazy? The iPhone 1 had a bigger battery size than the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS. The official specs said those newer phones were better, with longer talk time and longer standby time, but the additions of 3G radios and Bluetooth ate up battery life and actually made the phones thicker (and therefore the battery sizes smaller compared to the iPhone 1).

Now? The true iPhone battery life revolution didn’t happen until the iPhone 4 and again when the significantly bigger iPhone 6 Plus launched, comfortably lasting all day while doing more tasks. Batteries  got bigger, internal specs became more efficient and software taxed the battery less. The iPhone 5 introduced controversy when it switched everyone over to reversible Lightning cables (care to go back?) and now the iPhone 7 Plus give us our most efficient battery of an iPhone. What’s next? Rumors point to iPhone 8 getting wireless charger, something we like about our iPhone Mophie case, but wouldn’t mind having out of the box.

The iPhone has dramatically changed over the course of ten years. 

Don’t think so? Apps weren’t a thing outside of what was pre-installed, selfies weren’t a thing and listening to music via Bluetooth headphones (or now AirPods) on your daily commute was annoyingly not a thing. These are all smartphone features we take for granted nowadays.

What will the iPhone look like in another 10 years? The popular theory is that it won’t be a phone. The advent of augmented reality may just give us something that’s closer to this sci-fi future.

I think that’s more like 20 years away. In the next 10 years – if I had to make an iPhone prediction – I suspect the iPad mini coming back. Follow me on this: if the new iPhone does indeed get a glass back, and if companies follow through on prototyping flexible phones, and if current phones continue to get thinner and thinner, we could have a phone, with glass on both sides, thin enough to be folded over (yes, a flip phone), one could morph into a small tablet. It’d be ideal for watching YouTube videos on a train or plane, but be sleek enough to fold up and fit into your pocket. Yes, the near future phone may just be the iPad mini, or if it folds up 16 more times, the Apple Watch.

  • Fact vs fiction: Apple’s iPhone 8 rumors explained

The best Macs to buy in 2017: Apple’s top iMacs, MacBooks and more

At WWDC 2017, we finally saw rather significant updates to the best Macs across the board. The MacBook, MacBook Pro and iMac, for instance, have each been refreshed with 7th-generation Intel Kaby Lake processors as well as new memory and storage options. Meanwhile, the Mac Pro desktop will soon be ousted by an iMac Pro this autumn. 

It’s no surprise that the top Macs are all about the convergence of stellar hardware and software, but these days Macs are par of the course when it comes to performance too. Especially as macOS 10.13 High Sierra makes its rounds to developers, the best Macs will bear support for VR as well as external graphics solutions straight from Apple via Thunderbolt 3.

  • Not completely set on a Mac? These are the best laptops in every category

With the MacBook Air on its last leg and the Mac Mini all but discontinued, Apple’s Mac selection is scarce right now. But, those which remain wholeheartedly deserve to be on this list. After all, the top Macs aren’t about variety as much as they are about being as utilitarian as they are attractive.

27-inch iMac with 5K Retina display - Best Mac 2016

If you want the big screen of an iMac with the precision of a Retina display then there’s only one iMac for you: the iMac with 5K Retina display. It comes with a choice between two Intel Core i5 chips as well as 1TB of HDD or Fusion Drive storage and it’s so pretty we want to marry it.

If you’re dropping more than a grand and a half on an iMac you might as well go the whole hog and get the faster, Fusion Drive-packing model, replete with a 5K Retina Display, 3.5GHz processor and Fusion Drive for £1,849 ($2,299).

For designers and video creators looking to make the move to pixel-heavy content, the 5K iMac pairs an illustrious display with a heaping deal of screen real estate to boot. It may not have the expandability of a Mac Pro, but at least you don’t have to worry about buying a monitor.

What’s next for the 27-inch iMac with 5K Retina display?

Along with the MacBooks and other versions of the iMac desktop, the 5K iMac was treated to a spec overhaul at WWDC. Not only do you get up-to-date processors, but at long last, the iMac upholds two Thunderbolt 3 ports in addition to AMD Radeon Pro graphics based on Polaris.

Read the full review: 27-inch iMac with 5K Retina display (2015)

21.5-inch iMac with 4K Retina display - Best Mac 2016

If 27 inches is too much for you, Apple’s 21.5-inch 4K iMac is much smaller but bears an equally sharp display. It goes toe-to-toe with the 27-inch 5K iMac’s when it comes to pixel density, and it similarly supports the DCI-P3 colour gamut allowing for accurate, vibrant color.

It isn’t much more affordable than the entry-level 27-inch iMac once you’ve ramped up the parts, so it’s worth considering whether spending the extra money would be worth getting hold of a larger display and much more powerful graphics capabilities.

If those aspects aren’t important, Apple’s smaller iMac is still a capable machine and features one of the best 4K screens around. And, if you don’t need an 4K display, there’s a 1080p model as well.

What’s next for the 21.5-inch iMac with 4K Retina Display?

The 4K iMac was also prescribed some refinements at WWDC. Aside from – again – the move to Kaby Lake for the CPU, the 21.5-inch iMac has faster Radeon Pro graphics and even juggles a pair of Thunderbolt 3 ports and, after all this time, DDR4 RAM.

Read the full review: 21.5-inch iMac with 4K Retina display (2015)

best mac

Apple’s 2015 MacBook refresh wasn’t for everyone and, despite being rosier and “goldier” than ever, that contention hasn’t changed with this year’s upgrade. While both models supplanted the MacBook Air as the lightest and smallest laptop, the extra portability came with compromises.

Most notably, Apple replaced the standard USB 3 and Thunderbolt 2 ports with the brand-new USB-C (but notably not the crazy high-performance Thunderbolt 3).There’s also the keyboard, wherein Apple has re-engineered every key to be thinner and far less springy to the touch.

Even though its 1.1GHz, 1.2GHz dual-core or 1.3GHz Intel Core M processor has nowhere near the power of the Pro or even the Air, the laptop is more than capable of running iMovie, Photos, and even Photoshop with ease, much thanks to the smooth-as-butter macOS Sierra.

What’s next for the 12-inch MacBook?

The 2017 MacBook doesn’t change much fundamentally from its predecessor. The Intel Core M-series processors are still there, although this time with a new moniker. Although the baseline Intel Core m3 model is still there, Intel changed Core m5 and m7 to “Y” series Core i5 and i7.

Likewise, the memory options have expanded as well. Instead of being limited to just 8GB of RAM, you can configure a MacBook with 16GB of DDR3. Thankfully, the newer MacBook uses the second-generation butterfly mechanism that the MacBook Pro attained last year, too. 

Read the full review: 12-inch MacBook (2016)

15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina

After some much-needed patience, we finally have the MacBook Pro overhaul we deserve. Complete with a thinner, lighter design, a Space Gray color option and an OLED Touch Bar in lieu of the function keys, this MacBook Pro introduces the big chances we’ve been waiting for.

Although you may be turned off by the lack of conventional ports, the USB-C ports on the MacBook Pro are Thunderbolt 3 compatible, meaning you can transfer up to 40Gbps with a compatible device or hook it up to up to two 5K monitors if you dare.

All in all, there’s a lot to love about the 15-inch MacBook Pro, including 16GB of RAM, the option of up to 2TB of SSD storage space and a massive trackpad. Sure, you’ll be shelling out an extra wad of cash for this model, but it’s the best MacBook Pro money can buy. 

What’s next for the 15-inch MacBook Pro?

Like (almost) everything else on this list, the MacBook Pro stepped its game up at WWDC. It did so by making the switch to 7th-gen Intel Core i7 processors and giving you the choice between AMD Radeon Pro 555 and 560 graphics (featuring 2GB and 4GB of VRAM, respectively).

Virtually everything else about last year’s 15-inch MacBook Pro remains intact. So, if you like the Touch Bar and Thunderbolt 3 ports of yesteryear, you’re in luck. If you don’t, however, the 2015 MacBook Pro is still available to buy, but it’s still pricey and not worth it.

Read our full review: 15-inch MacBook Pro (2016)

About a year and a half out from its 2015 variant, the 13-inch MacBook Pro of late 2016 was well worth the wait, though it comes with a handful of prominent changes. For instance, even without the Touch Bar, it’s a sight for sore eyes.

Resembling the featherlight 12-inch MacBook, thanks to its sleeker exterior design and the notable absence of that glowing bright Apple logo we’ve all come to know and love, The non-Touch Bar models are equipped with just two USB-C, Thunderbolt 3 ports.

On the inside, the 13-inch MacBook Pro has a full set of 6th-gen Intel Core i5 processors, which can be swapped out for an i7 chip if you order from Apple’s website. All of this is complemented by up to a whopping 1TB of PCIe-based SSD storage, 16GB of RAM and a Retina display.

What’s next for the 13-inch MacBook Pro?

32GB of RAM is still a pipe dream for the MacBook Pro, as is a 4K screen and quad-core processors on the 13-inch model, but the 2017 MacBook Pro still catches up in other regards. The processors are faster and more efficient, but most importantly it’s cheaper.

Now there’s a variant of the MacBook Pro that costs the same as the entry-level 12-inch MacBook. It hangs onto half the storage (a measly 128GB), but the true Intel Core i5 CPU with Iris Plus 640 graphics more than make up for it. Plus, iCloud is cheaper if you need the space.

Read the full review: 13-inch MacBook Pro (2016) 

13-inch MacBook Air - Best Mac 2016

The MacBook Air is in an interesting spot. While it’s still one of the most popular and well-known notebooks around, the iPad Pro and 12-inch MacBook have stolen much of its thunder. That is, unless you need the legacy USB 3, Thunderbolt 2 and SDXC card connectivity.

Even without a Retina display or Force Touch trackpad, the 13-inch MacBook Air is a very capable machine. Plus it still has the beloved MagSafe 2 charger onboard as well as an impeccable battery life.

Even if the 4GB of RAM and 128GB of flash storage leave a lot to be desired, the MacBook Air boasts higher clock speeds than the more expensive MacBook by way of a 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor.  

What’s next for the MacBook Air?

The MacBook Air, which launched in 2008 and was last updated in earnest in 2015, is in need of a refresh  – and while rumours have long suggested Apple was going to give it one, it seems as though it’s being phased out completely over time.

Even though Apple decided to give the MacBook Air a speed boost at WWDC, from 1.6GHz to a more lofty 1.8GHz, it’s still clinging to a two-year-old, 5th-generation Broadwell chip. It’s only a matter of time before the MacBook Air either gets refreshed or cut from the team.

Read the full review: 13-inch MacBook Air (2015)

Mac mini - Best Mac 2016

The Mac Mini is Apple’s cheapest computer and has, for a long time, been its least powerful. Fortunately, Intel’s processor technology allows the desktop to be used for heavier tasks and Apple has brought the low-end model up to a decent specification.

The Mini comes in three variants: a $499 (£399, AU$699) option with a dual-core i5 CPU, a spinning hard drive, and 4GB of RAM; a $699 option with a more powerful processor, an SSD, and 8GB of RAM; or a $999 model which is comparable to the iMac at the same price.

The top-of-the-line Mac mini bumps the processor up to 2.8GHz and adds a Fusion Drive in place of the 5400-rpm spinner, but at $999 (£799, AU$1,399), we wouldn’t recommend it. The iMac starts at only $100 (£250, AU$200) more and comes with a mouse, keyboard and screen.

What’s next for the Mac mini?

The youngest Mac mini will celebrate its third birthday later this year, but Apple could be looking to update it so that its low-end users get a decent experience when running macOS, which became more graphically intense with macOS Sierra, the latest consumer release.

A 2017 model would, while unlikely, include Intel’s Kaby Lake chips, yielding major performance improvements alongside other, newer internals, like faster and larger RAM and an SSD options for the low-end model. But, like we said, it’s probably not going to happen.

Read the full review: Mac mini (2014)

Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article 

Top smartphones of 2017 with big batteries

Modern day smartphones come with a variety of features appealing to a wide range of customers. But if there’s one feature that grabs the most eyeballs, it’s the size of a battery. Keeping this in mind, manufacturers have been pushing phones with massive batteries for quite some time now. It’s mostly a coincidence that a majority of these phones belong to the mid-ranged or budget segment. Well, let’s have a look at some of these smartphones that are available in India right now.

The Lenovo P2 is one of the most attractive big battery phones you can get right now. In addition to the 5,100mAh battery, the phone also comes with a decent 5.5-inch Full HD display, accompanied by the octa-core Snapdragon 625 SoC. 

 Customers get to choose between 3GB and 4GB of RAM, accompanied by 32GB of onboard storage. It’s a fairly exciting device, and the price tag of Rs 14,999 justifies the hardware. The variant with 4GB of RAM will set you back by Rs 16,999. The handset is a Flipkart exclusive.

Read the full review: Lenovo P2

Launched not too long ago, the Moto C Plus comes with a fairly attractive hardware, even for a budget device of this caliber. Moto has focused heavily on the mid-ranged market segment in the past and the company continues to do so with the newer breed of handsets. 

The highlight of the Moto C Plus is the 4,000mAh battery under the hood. The device also comes with a 5-inch HD (1280×720) display, Android 7.0 Nougat, an 8MP rear camera, a 2MP front camera, and 2GB of RAM with 16GB of storage. The handset can be snatched up from Flipkart for Rs 6,990.

Read to know more about Moto C Plus

The Xiaomi Redmi 3s Prime has been the mainstay among Indian budget handsets. Featuring a 4,100mAh battery under the hood, it’s a beast when it comes to battery backup. The phone also features a 5-inch HD display, along with a 13MP rear camera and a 5MP front camera.

The one caveat here is that the handset comes with Android 6.0 Marshmallow while most of the new devices feature Android 7.0 out of the box. The phone also comes with a fingerprint scanner on board, which has become a prerequisite among mid-rangers.

The Redmi 3s Prime will set you back by Rs 8,990 and can be bought via Flipkart.

Read the full review: Xiaomi Redmi 3s Prime

The Panasonic P85 is a device that not many might have heard of. This is mainly due to the dominance of Chinese OEMs in the Indian smartphone market. But the P85 is a pretty decent offering on its own, and with a price tag of Rs 6,499 via Flipkart, the handset is one of the cheaper options if you’re considering a big battery handset. 

The P85 also comes with a 5-inch HD display, an 8MP rear camera, and a quad-core 1.0 GHz processor. It’s a very capable device with an attractive price tag to boot.

ASUS has somewhat confused the market with three devices bearing almost the same moniker. This one, however, is significantly different compared to its namesakes. The device comes with a 5,000mAh battery under the hood, coupled with a 5.2-inch HD display, an 8MP camera on the front, and the octa-core Mediatek MT6750 SoC. The handset is currently selling through Flipkart and Amazon for roughly about Rs 14,500. 

Read the full review: Asus ZenFone 3 Max review

Samsung has seriously upped its game when it comes to mid-rangers and budget devices. The Galaxy A9 Pro is a testament to that. Featuring a Super AMOLED display accompanied by a 5,000mAh battery, this is a truly unique offering. 

The phone is also packing a 16MP camera on the back, making it a very capable camera phone. The phone is available in Black, Gold, and White variants from both Amazon and Flipkart. It seems like the Gold variant is the cheapest via both retailers, while the Black and White models are slightly more expensive. The handset is priced at Rs 26,900.

Palmer Luckey funding hack that lets HTC Vive play Oculus Rift VR exclusives

Palmer Luckey is once again causing headaches for his old partners at Oculus and Facebook after having left the company he helped form with his Oculus Rift VR headset on undisclosed terms earlier this year. 

The VR wunderkind has pledged $2,000 a month to the developer of the Revive software, an application that lets games and software that’d otherwise be exclusive to the Oculus platform also play nicely with its rival HTC Vive.

Pledging his support via the developer’s Patreon account, Revive developer Jules Blok confirmed Luckey’s involvement in a blog post.

“As some of you suspected the sudden extreme jump in the pledge amount is indeed by Palmer Luckey. I’d like to thank him for his pledge and everything he has done for the VR community as a whole,” said Blok.

Oculus occlusion

It’s a move unlikely to go down well with Oculus and Facebook, the social network giant having bought Luckey’s platform for a giant $3 billion back in 2014.

Though it has angered the fledgling backers of the VR community, Oculus’s approach to VR content has leaned heavily on funding exclusives, cutting them off from the rest of the growing world of VR hardware in the short term, and hoping that timed-exclusivity deals will garner some platform loyalty.

But despite making an estimated $700 million from the Facebook deal, Luckey’s always seemed a bit at odds with his Silicon Valley peers. Always a proponent of open VR standards compared to those he worked alongside, Luckey was ostracised from a large proportion of the mostly-liberal Silicon Valley elite when he was found to be donating to an anti-Clinton political campaign during the 2016 US elections.

An annual $24,000  pledge may be pocket money to Luckey, but it’s an action rich with deeper sentiment when you consider the circumstances with which he parted ways with Oculus.

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StarCraft: Remastered will let you fight the 4K swarm in August

Blizzard’s remastered version of StarCraft will go on sale on Monday 14 August, for Windows and Mac machines priced at £13 or $15 over in the US (around AU$20).

The classic RTS is up for pre-order now via Blizzard’s online store, and you get the original game plus the Brood War expansion, all of which has been brought up-to-date for contemporary gaming.

The core gameplay remains the same, but the enhancements include better graphics, support for widescreen monitors and 4K resolution, along with improved music, sound and remastered dialogue to boot.

You also get player profiles that track individual stats, a new matchmaking and leaderboard system, plus there’s now saving to the cloud (not just for your campaign, but also for replays, hotkeys and so forth).

Blizzard has also made it possible to switch between this remastered version and the original StarCraft game by simply clicking a button.

Bonus skins

All in all, it sounds like a compelling recipe with which to revisit the classic sci-fi RTS, and it’s worth bearing in mind that those who pre-order before the launch of StarCraft: Remastered will get a neat little in-game bonus.

Namely three unique building skins: the Char Hive, Korhal Command Center, and Aiur Nexus. As well as that, those who own StarCraft II will get some additional goodies in that game, including three unique portraits and the Alexei Stukov co-op commander.

And all this won’t break the bank, because as mentioned, the asking price is pitched at a palatable level.

The original StarCraft (which was made available as a free download back in April) was launched almost two decades ago, back in 1998, but it’s still played today – and will be seeing a lot more action come August, no doubt.

It was preceded by the original WarCraft RTS, of course, which first came out in 1994. Rumor has it that Blizzard seemingly looked at the possibility of doing WarCraft: Remastered, but decided that revamping this particular golden oldie wouldn’t work as well, or be much fun to play.

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Facebook’s internet drone reaches new heights with first successful landing

Facebook’s internet-beaming autonomous drone Aquila has completed a successful second full-scale test flight, the company announced today. 

While the solar-powered aircraft, designed to fly non-stop for 60-90 days at high altitudes, flew once before, the first flight ended in a crash landing. This time, Aquila “landed perfectly.”

This second flight took place on May 22 and lasted one hour and 46 minutes. The team constructed a special landing area for Aquila, and having made adjustments including adding wing spoilers, modifying the craft’s autopilot software and locking the propellers horizontally before landing, were able to pull off a smooth landing.

This is especially impressive because the lightweight Aquila, which has a wingspan wider than a Boeing 737, lacks traditional landing gear; it basically lands on pads made of Kevlar as it skids to a halt.

According to Facebook, everything except the propeller locking function worked as they should have.

One standout stat is that Aquila’s climb rate was almost twice as fast as the first flight at 180 feet per minute, attributable to the changes Facebook implemented. Facebook didn’t provide a peak altitude, but said the craft reached at least 3,000 feet before continuing to climb.

There’s still more work to be done before Aquila is beaming internet to remote parts of the world, but this is a huge step forward for Facebook in its quest to connect everyone. 

The social network turned all-encompassing tech company has forged ahead with its plans to deliver internet connectivity to more people, which is part of its newly revised mission statement to build community and bring the world closer together.

Aquila’s flight is an important milestone for these kinds of drone aircraft, and an even bigger one for Facebook. 

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